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Krakow.

We arrived into a damp, foggy and cold looking Krakow early evening, all we had to do now was get our passports stamped and head off into the city to our accommodation. Now that we are not part of Europe the passport process involves long, slow queues pretty much every where we go! 

John Paul II Airport Krakow

We had declined the offer of an airport transfer from our accommodation and went for the much cheaper option of an Uber, although I've used Uber before this was the first time I'd done so by myself! Tis a fairly straight forward process once you've found your driver! As it was early evening and the traffic in Krakow was pretty bad the journey too 45ish mins as apposed to the usual 20mins. From what we were told the traffic is getting really bad and a lot of drivers avoid working during busy periods.

Our home for the next few days was the 'Dietla 99 Apartments' which was situated about a 10 minute walk from the Old Town Square There was one tram stop right outside the front door and another just over the road. Plus several supermarkets, cafes and restaurants within 2-300 meters. Ideal location!

Dietla 99 Apartments Krakow
Dietla 99 Apartments Krakow

Our first excursion was to see the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mine, For this we booked a nice 11am collection from our own doorstep, and from our apartment it was only a 20 minute drive to the mine. Our driver Lukas was bang on time and the other people on our tour were already onboard.

At this point I will say that as we had booked an English speaking tour of the mine the small group of the 8 of us in the vehicle would be our tour group, This is not the case, we were taken to the mine entrance and once inside the reception area we were left and then became a group of 36 people! This dose seem to be a reoccurring theme in Krakow! 

Now the mine has around 800 stairs that you will have to walk down and you will walk around 2.5 miles once inside, also the temperature is a constant +17-+18ºc, so its gonna be warm for you! All of this takes around 3 hours, but don't worry as there are restrooms and refreshments in various places and elevators to take you back to the surface once you are done!

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

The first set of downward staircases takes you to a depth of 64 meters, you will eventually get to 130 meters below the ground! Thats a long way down!

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

Remember, everything you see in the mine has been painstakingly carved from the rock salt which they had been mining. The mine first started producing table salt in the 13th century and ceased in 1996. 

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

These 3D carvings are amazing! Having studied technical drawing and the use of perspective focal points at school and then also having had a job as a stone mason I really appreciate the work and the time that had gone into these carvings.

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

There was also a lot of timber used as supports in various parts of the mine. Impressive!

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

Once the tour is over you are left somewhere inside the mine and then given instructions on how to find the lifts to get out. you get to walk through some caverns, the gift shop, restaurant and there is also a museum somewhere! To be honest this is a bit of a shambles as you have no idea what time your ride takes you home, so do you have time eat or not, do you have time to find the museum or not, can you find the museum or not!? You also have to join a queue to the lift, but this involved walking with over 100 people for around 20 minutes, then you have to wait your turn to use the one and only lift. This lift took us to the surface at a different point to where we entered, but our ride home was already waiting at the entrance!

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

The mine itself is amazing to see, the caverns, the lakes, the sculptures etc, but the tour leaves a lot to be desired! if you are nearer the back of the group you cant hear what the guide is saying very well, The tour is a bit rushed, but then I guess thats a numbers thing. Also there was no mention or literature during the tour of how any of the salt was mined, tools used to mine the salt, to create the carvings or even how the miners created the caverns! There was a little mention of how the timber got into the mine and how the horses lived there entire lives underground, so not all was lost!

Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine Krakow

As I previously said, we were limited to time so everything was pre-booked for this trip. It is very easy to get to the mines from Krakow using the train or a bus from the main station in Krakow, also this would be very cheap and only involve short walks. But you do need to book your ticket in advance, especially if you want an English speaking tour.

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